Demon Pond (1979)

aka Yasha-ga-ike
Article 2964 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-19-2009
Posting Date: 9-25-2009
Directed by Masahiro Shinoda
Featuring Tamasaburo Bando, Go Kato, Tsutomu Yamazaki
Country: Japan

A teacher on vacation comes upon a village near a pond with a dragon in it; in order to keep the dragon from inundating the village with water, a bell must be rung three times daily to remind the dragon of its pact not to do so. However, it’s been many years since the pact, and the villagers have begun to believe that the story is just superstition…

Watching fantasy movies from other countries is a rich experience, and this one is truly enjoyable. It’s based on a stage play, and you can tell; the action takes place in three distinct phases. In the first, we follow the story of the teacher as he finds an old friend who has married the most beautiful woman in the village and has taken over the ringing of the bell. This section is rather long-winded, but the second section is a marvel; we meet personifications of the dragon and her many associates, many of which are portrayed as half man and half animal. These two first sections work together to establish one clear fact, and that is that there really is only one person standing in the way of the destruction of the village. The third section follows the plans of the drought-stricken villagers, and how their plans put them all in peril. My print of this is none too good, but even I can tell that it’s visually enthralling, and some of the special effects are wonderful. Its worst problem is that it gets a little too talky at times, and I suspect a good twenty minutes could have been pruned off of this movie, which runs just over two hours long. Nevertheless, it is a remarkable and highly recommended movie.

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